Today, two days before the New York State Legislature reconvenes for 2013, a coalition of nearly 100 State legislators called for prompt passage of a specific, comprehensive State plan to reduce the firepower available to criminals and stop many preventable acts of gun violence. The call for broad new legislation comes in the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT that left 20 young children and 6 teachers dead, the murders of first responders arriving at the scene of a fire set by a heavily armed killer in Webster, NY, and ongoing gun violence throughout New York State.
The plan’s growing list of supporters, who began coalescing in December after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, now includes 25 Senators and 70 Assemblymembers, as well as four legislators whose terms just ended.
All rank-and-file members of the Senate Democratic Conference have signed on, as have nearly three-quarters of the Assembly Majority, which has supported stronger gun laws in prior legislative sessions, including some aspects of the package proposed today. The coalition was initiated by Assemblymembers Michelle Schimel of Nassau County and Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan, and Senator Eric Adams of Brooklyn, the three Co-Chairs of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns.
The lawmakers laid out the plan in a letter sent to the leaders of the five legislative conferences. Each of the recipients—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb; and Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey D. Klein, and Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins—has expressed a need for a State response to recent gun violence, although the approach they have proposed to take has varied substantially. Governor Andrew Cuomo has also called for strong legislation.
The plan includes eight measures:
· Requiring universal background checks, for criminality and mental health issues, on all gun sales
· Strengthening the State’s assault weapons ban, making it similar to the existing ban in New York City
· Banning high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds
· Requiring semi-automatic pistols to be equipped with microstamping, to help solve gun crimes
· Requiring gun licenses to be renewed every 5 years
· Improving gun dealer regulations, particularly to reduce gun losses and thefts
· Regulating ammunition sales, ensuring that those not permitted to buy a weapon can’t buy ammunition
· Limiting personal handgun purchases to no more than one per month, to help reduce gun trafficking
The plan is intended to appeal to New Yorkers concerned about the fact that gun laws in New York and other parts of the United States are among the weakest in the world, and are not currently designed to effectively prevent criminals and other dangerous individuals from accessing powerful weapons. None of the proposals would substantially impede law-abiding New Yorkers from obtaining and keeping suitable weapons for protection, hunting, or other legal uses. The package has been endorsed by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, with input from the Violence Policy Center.
On January 5, before the legislators issued their package of gun violence prevention measures, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement saying, "Any gun policy that does not ban assault weapons ignores the reality of gun violence and insults the common sense of New Yorkers."
And on January 2, in response to the exclusion of microstamping from a state gun control package, Assemblywoman Schimel said, "No surprise here. The political will to take a courageous path to curb gun violence is neither in Albany nor Washington. I have only seen legislative action in the Assembly. We need a real assault weapons ban like New York City. We need to reduce magazine clips to ten and we need universal background checks. But make no mistake about it, when a child is killed by gun fire and there is no gun, no leads, no witnesses, which is a daily occurrence, the police need microstamping." Schimel is the sponsor of microstamping legislation and a longtime gun control advocate.